Thoughts: There are a lot of young friendships in this book. Alex has her three brothers, William (Will), Nicolas (Nick) and Christopher (Kit), her lady’s maid Eliza, her two best friends Vivi and Ellie, plus Gavin. All of them seem to get along very well, and they are all talented and striking according to the descriptions in the book. It’s in their conversations that I thought the book’s strong points lay: everyone is very articulate and well spoken, which fits with the time period and their upbringing in London society. It was nice to read conversations between teenagers where there’s wit and proper manners.
The problem I had however was there were a lot of characters to take in and after a while some of them sort of blended in together. Alex’s brothers seemed indistinguishable to me besides one being the oldest and one being the most tactless (can’t remember who that was though). They had very small roles as just annoying older brothers who liked giving their sister a hard time and to give a male perspective on also hating having to deal with the marriage market. Vivi and Ellie also have very similar voices, and when the three girls spoke, I couldn’t really tell them apart besides their names, because their personalities are so similar. I only know Ellie really likes to write and draw, while Vivi lost her mother and claims she’s looking for “The One” but may have already found him and isn’t telling. I’m not sure that most of these characters brought much to the story and I had the niggling feeling that all these characters were being set up for their own romances in later books. Besides that, they were very wholesome and supportive of each other here, which lends to some amusing conversation when they got together, but I wish they were a bit more distinguishable and maybe a bit more flawed. There were so many times that Alex felt proud of her friends and family and they were so perfect, I was starting to feel very guilty. Guilty of feeling like a hardened cynic and wondering whether it was just me.
Their flaws were pretty much their headstrong characters, which in this day is more of a strength. In Regency London however, it made me remember I was reading fiction. Even with strong wills and an interest in politics, I didn’t find it believable when the girls started reciting facts about Napoleon to people at balls as proving they were well informed, or that Alex wouldn’t be at all concerned about her reputation when she tells all her friends she was kissed and she wanted it to happen again. There needs to be a suspension of disbelief in these areas to enjoy the book and I couldn’t quite muster it.
The best part of the book is Gavin. He’s the one whose father has just died in what looks like an accident, but turns out to be more than that. I had a guess within the first few chapters as to who the villain was, because there just isn’t anyone else to choose from, so the mystery in this book was very obvious, it’s more of an addition to the romance between Gavin and Alex. Gavin reminded me a little of Mr. Knightley from Jane Austen’s Emma. He’s a childhood friend of the main character and sometimes he disapproves of Alex’s behavior and tries to caution her in ways that just tick her off, but she also begins to realize her feelings for him aren’t sisterly. Their scenes are the best ones in the book and luckily there are quite a few of them, though their relationship seemed to repeat itself – from normal to scorching and back again. Alex isn’t an Emma in that she doesn’t try to play Cupid, but she and her friends do get very curious, so in that regard, maybe there are similarities.
Overall: I was pimped this book by a couple of girls at BEA, and the author was so nice that I really wanted to like this book. Part of me cringes a little writing this review, but I have to be honest: this was not quite for me. I think it’s one of those books I thought was just “OK”, but others really loved it. I see a lot of glowing reviews online. For me, the best parts involve the romance and the conversations between characters, and it’s still a quick, fun read but the plot is a little too predictable and the characters a little too wholesome for my tastes.
Other reviews (mostly positive):